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Why did Count Vorontsov needed the strongest walls in the world

дворец Воронцова в Алупке
© Konstantin Dyadyun,

Cobblestones, with the light hand of sculptor Ivan Shadr, are associated with the weapons of the proletariat. During the revolutionary events of 1917, all Moscow sidewalks, including Red Square, were paved with such stones. Today's heavy-duty diabase appeared on it only in 1930. In ancient times, this stone from the family of basalts was used by miners as a substitute for metal in making the striking part of a pick. Diamonds, corundum and topaz are the hardest of all minerals. No houses are built of diabase. The only known example is the summer residence of Count Vorontsov in Alupka. Why did he need to use such an uncomfortable material, which is also not the most spectacular?

The researchers still do not agree on the technology of erecting the Vorontsov Palace. Today, diabase is processed by diamond or laser cutting. In 1828 such a thing was impossible. Judging by the huge number of workers at the site, 60 thousand people, the most primitive tools were used - hammers and chisels.

© Форпост Северо-Запад/ Горный музей

The result of 20 years of work was a half-fortress. The palace faces the sea with a friendly facade in Moorish style, and from the side of Mount Ai-Petri it resembles austere English castles of the time of Queen Elizabeth the First. The lack of integrity in the architecture of the building can be attributed to the contradictory nature of the owner, which Pushkin noted in one of his epigrams. It was written before construction of the Governor's apartments in Alupka started:

"Half-lord, half-businessman,
Half wise man, half ignoramus,
Half-underdog, but there's hope,
That will be full at last."

The palace's architectural eclecticism is evident in everything but the choice of material. Historians mostly explain it by Vorontsov's desire to fit the building in the rocky landscape harmoniously in color and mood. Someone refers to the declared desire "to build expensive". Others believe that a stone slightly softer than a diamond was used in memory of the count's participation in the siege of the impregnable fortress of Varna.

гравюра Воронцовский дворец в Алупке
© Воронцовский дворец, литография Василия Тимма, 1855 г.

However, we can recall another epigram by Pushkin to the same addressee: "He was not too brave with his soul; but he was dry, courteous and important".

The famous Trilby fountain, part of the ensemble of the residence, agrees with the version of using diabase as a remedy for fears. The main element of its decor is a relief panel on which Vorontsov's favorite setter claws his teeth into the neck of a cat. The count's biography quotes his words concerning this work: "The bas-relief, representing a mortal fight between Trilby and a Tartar cat, is before me and makes a fine impression."

The duel of an adult and by no means an indoor dog with a smaller opponent is hardly an example of its unquestionable valor. It seems that for Vorontsov the cat represents a potential personal danger on the part of the indigenous population of the southern coast of Crimea.

He arrived in Tauris in 1823 in the status of Novorossiysk and Bessarabian governor-general and with instructions from his father, the Russian ambassador to Great Britain, to respect the rights of Muslims. In one letter he assures his son that "only they [the Tatars themselves] can make their country flourish.

кирка из диабаза, Океания, начало 19-го века
© Форпост Северо-Запад/ Горный музей, кирка из диабаза, Океания, начало 19-го века.

Mikhail Vorontsov inherited diplomacy from his father. It is not for nothing that the gates of his residence in Alupka bear a quotation from the Koran. However, it is known that he was a strong supporter of the dacha construction in the most favorable areas of the Crimea, i.e. in the south, and an initiator of the general land survey on the peninsula. It would have put an end to the land issue, but it promised an aggravation of long-standing property disputes. Especially with the public, so-called by the Vakuf, lands.

In Islamic law at that time it was customary to assign certain structures or tracts of land for charitable purposes to mosques. The family of the donor, however, retained the right to receive the main part of the income from the objects. In Turkey, for example, up to three quarters of all buildings and plots had such a status. There was no surveying, so the appearance of new owners in the Crimea from the "continental" part of the country led to a lot of disputes and as a result - to constant lawsuits. It was impossible to solve such disputes within the general legal rules of the Russian Empire.

The property of Vorontsov himself, in addition to the residence in Alupka, included two vast estates on the wooded seashore from the present Nikitsky Botanical Garden to Gurzuf.

© Форпост Северо-Запад/ Горный музей

It is also known that the Governor-General was in favor of returning the military duty for the Crimean Tatars, from which they were once released by Catherine II. This issue is just actively discussed in the official St. Petersburg in the late 1820s. Later, after Count's death, when the recruitment was introduced, the Tatars began to move to Turkey en masse. The land, accordingly, was freed. Probably, this was the outcome implied by the supporters of the draft.

Probably only the wide window openings of the palace, unsuitable for a fortress, argue with the version of building the residence as a reliable shelter from human attacks. Perhaps here the count's sybaritism overcame his cautiousness. Or there was another fear, for example, about a possible landslide on Ai-Petri. The walls of diabase would have adequately met the stone boulder that fell from the height of one thousand two hundred meters. It was like Sisyphus, the wilful Corinthian king who cheated with the gods.